Last season ended with our BAU agents finally stopping the season-long Unsub known as The Replicator, but not before he took the life of Section Chief Erin Strauss. In tonight’s 9th season premiere, “The Insipiration”, the team investigates a case in Arizona while speculating over whether or not Hotch is set to replace Strauss as Section Chief. Read on to find out what the minds behind Criminal Minds have in-store for us in tonight’s season premiere.

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To Be (Section Chief) or Not to Be

The episode opens with the agents returning to work mere hours after leaving for the night and none of them are happy about it. Hotch, on the other hand, never left work. He has been pulling double-duty, filling in for Strauss as Section Chief while still carrying out his normal Unit Chief responsibilities. Hotch tells Rossi that he has been asked to assume Strauss’ old position on a permanent basis, but as it would mean leaving the team, Hotch has yet to make a decision.

While Hotch weighs his options, his friends ponder their future without Hotch as Unit Chief. Reid is heartbroken at the thought of Hotch leaving the team, but JJ understands that it would probably be easier on Hotch and Jack if Hotch had a desk job. Morgan wonders if he would be asked to take over Hotch’s position once again and Rossi offers to find ways to ruin Hotch’s chances at the Section Chief job, if Hotch so desires.

While it is a stretch for even the casual viewer to imagine Hotch leaving the team and becoming Section Chief full-time, it is interesting to think about what a Hotch-less team would look like. We saw how the power dynamics shifted during Morgan’s short tenure as Unit Chief, but given that everyone knew that was a temporary switch, it is hard to say if that truly reflected how a Hotch-less team would operate. But since that possibility is about as likely as Gideon returning, all of the pondering feels a bit pointless.

To Be Continued…

Tonight’s case takes the team to Arizona, where they look into the murders of several young women. The victims were all raped, shot in the heart and left in a prayer-like position. During the course of the investigation, the agents realize that the Unsub is forcing his victims to consume human remains before he kills them. Using this specific signature, Reid comes to the conclusion that the Unsub is obsessed with the praying mantis and using the mantis’ behavior as inspiration for how he commits his murders.

The agents identify the Unsub through DNA from the first victim, a girl who broke up with the Unsub years earlier. They track him to the restaurant where he works, only for the Unsub to escape. A chase ensues and the Unsub is arrested, but Morgan and JJ are bothered by the Unsub’s behavior at the time of his arrest. Their suspicions are justified, as the episode ends with Hotch getting a call saying they arrested the wrong man. The episode ends on a cliffhanger, as it is revealed that the Unsub has an identical twin.

A Less-Than-Stellar Start

Tonight’s season premiere is one of several cannibalism episodes this show has done, but I hope it is the last. Though the cannibalism fit with the horror elements in tonight’s episode, it was much less effective than the Unsub’s creepy visions of his first victim. In fact, I would say it actually detracts from the creepier elements, as cannibalism is more gross than scary.

Tonight’s episode is interesting enough, but it falls a bit flat as the season opener. Next week’s episode — the conclusion to tonight’s two-parter — could save it, but since the episodes were not aired together, this feels like a weak start to the new season. And I hope the writers have more planned for guest star Camryn Manheim, who was sorely underused in tonight’s premiere.

What do you think of tonight’s season opener? Did you know going in that this is the first of a two-parter? Were you surprised by the last-minute twin twist? Do you think Hotch would make a good Section Chief? Hit the comments section and let us know your thoughts.

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(Image courtesy of CBS)

Megan Cole

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV